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Liberals Love Guns Too: Background information when reading Let It Bang

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Let It Bang

A Young Black Man's Reluctant Odyssey into Guns

by RJ Young

Let It Bang by RJ Young X
Let It Bang by RJ Young
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  • Published:
    Oct 2018, 192 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Valerie Morales
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About this Book

Liberals Love Guns Too

This article relates to Let It Bang

Print Review

Liberal Gun Club LogoIn his memoir, Let It Bang: A Young Black Man's Reluctant Odyssey With Guns, R.J. Young takes readers into his obsession with guns, and in the process explores race, guns and self-protection in the U.S.

But who exactly owns guns? While gun ownership skews strongly to rural white men who most likely vote Republican, the American reality is that it is much more widespread.

According to Pew Research, over one-third of whites own a gun but so do almost a quarter of blacks and 15% of Latinos. Gun ownership is also not the sole province of men; while 48% of white men currently own a gun, so do almost a quarter of white women and 16% of nonwhite women.

When it comes to politics, 20% of Democrats and left-leaning independents own guns. While this is less than half the 46% of Republicans and right-leaning independents who do, it's still a lot of people. Despite this, liberal gun owners can feel like refugees in their own land, preferring to keep silent at the shooting range about their political beliefs and quiet about their love of guns when out with friends.

What are the reasons for a liberal-leaning person to own a gun?

An article in Politico explores some of them. Miriam O'Quinn owns one because she just likes shooting. Cole Smith-Crowley calls himself a "firearm geek". A transgender woman named Clara began going to shooting ranges after the election of Donald Trump. "Things are already escalating, and they will continue to do so," she says. She is now shopping for her own firearm.

And where do they go to find other like-minded people?

The Liberal Gun Club, formed in 2009, "sees itself as one of the many groups forming to fill a niche left by the NRA's hard-right and racist policies," according to club member Cole Smith-Crowley. It provides a safe space for gun owners within the liberal community - people such as Miriam O'Quinn who was visibly shaken at shooting ranges where mock-ups of Barack Obama were the targets. The non-profit club isn't a political organization by mission statement and they don't support candidates. They have seen their membership rise to more than 2,000 as of 2016 and have members in every state, and nearly 10,000 Facebook friends. They have 11 chapters across the United States. Some of their members are wary about interviews, not wanting to be used as a pawn in the gun wars, while other members want to talk about it and perhaps dispel stereotypes. They want to stand up for the right to love guns but many of them do not agree with the NRA's positions on guns and gun control. Navy man Jim Ridgeway is one of those people: "I don't feel like the NRA represents me at all."

Another gun supporter, Gwendolyn Patton of the Pink Pistols, a gun club for gay, lesbian and transgender owners, says, "There are people who profess to carry a gun now because Trump made them feel unsafe." And finally, 70-year-old Blythe Bonnie lost interest in the Democratic party after the conflict with Bernie Sanders. She began the Liberal Prepper Facebook group geared for survivalism if there is an economic collapse after Trump. Part of their preparation is stockpiling weapons. "We are not preparing for a battle with the federal government, but we are preparing for if we have local chaos," she says.

Some liberal gun owners work for justice and promote equality in the area of gun ownership. For example, Lara Smith, the national spokesperson for The Liberal Gun Club, believes marginalized communities have to deal with sentencing inequality when facing a firearm violation. Owning a gun doesn't make a liberal any less likely to support traditional left-leaning causes such as environmental protection, climate change action, mass incarceration overhauls and fair taxation. They just want the ability to also love guns.

Article by Valerie Morales

This article relates to Let It Bang. It first ran in the October 31, 2018 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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